Usually I only write articles about places where I stay long enough, but I only spent two days on Oahu and therefore I missed many things on the island and can’t write about them. It started with my first day in Hawaii, a disappointing introduction to this 18-day trip on the archipelago which after all turned out to be unforgettable. And almost three weeks laterthis is where I spent my very last day in Hawaii, with so many amazing memories in my head. These two days couldn’t have been more different, so I decided to write this short article anyway. This is a loop around Oahu: from Honolulu to Honolulu, follow me from a mediocre start to an incredible ending.
Honolulu – Waikiki
My first contact with Honolulu couldn’t have been worse; if you haven’t read it yet, see what I wrote in my previous article about the ugly international airport and its terrible service. I admit, I probably wasn’t in the best mood to enjoy my first hours in Honolulu, especially after a long flight from Canada. But still, what I first saw was really not as good as I expected.
My hostel was close to Waikiki Beach, probably one of the most famous beaches in the world. The whole suburb is full of cheap backpackers, luxury resorts, restaurants, bars and clubs… and it seemed so fake to me on that first night. All these tall buildings, these crowded streets and the huge traffic had nothing to do with what I thought Hawaii looked like. On the next morning I walked to the beach: the white sand and the clear water were beautiful, but even if it was early in the morning in October there were already hundreds of people lying in the sun and body-boarding on the waves. I don’t know how bad it probably is in the middle of the summer, but it’s definitely not a place for nature lovers.
I didn’t explore Honolulu further so maybe I missed a lot of things in this city, but I heard the same disappointing first impression from many other travellers that I met around Hawaii. Anyway, I’d be happy to be proved wrong so if you know great places to visit in Honolulu, share them in the comments!
Diamond Head is an ancient volcano crater just on the southern limit of Honolulu. When you’re on Waikiki Beach, you’ll see its silhouette on your left, even though it doesn’t look so much like a crater from there (the best way to see it is from an airplane, like on this picture on the right). It’s possible to climb to its summit, so that’s the first thing I did with the French-Canadian couple that I met at the airport the night before. The climb is not so difficult except that it could get quickly hot as there’s no shadow at all, but it’s not a really enjoyable walk as the path is crowded with lots of tourists from every age and every physical condition…
The view from the top is both beautiful and disappointing. Beautiful because the colour of the water is unbelievable, disappointing because the tall towers of Honolulu don’t look better from there than they do when you’re in the city. This short hike is unmissable if you’re on Oahu but trust me, there are a lot of better places to go to on this island!
Another beautiful yet disappointing place. The view was really stunning (see the picture below), but at the same time it looked like a theme park to me. A huge car park (but very quickly filled, go early), admission fee, shops, tickets, overpriced snorkeling gear rentals, even a video every 30 minutes that you have to watch before you’re allowed to finally pass the gates and go to the beach!
This place is known to be one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii; it would probably be true if there weren’t so many people and if it wasn’t so touristic but sadly you’ll have to share this beautiful bay with hundreds of other divers. It’s such a shame because once you’re in the water you’d be able to see so many fishes around you!
I didn’t have enough time to explore Oahu further but I’m sure that there are other great snorkeling spots around the island that are less crowded than Hanauma Bay – once again if you know some, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments!
Halona Blowhole and Makapu’u Beach
After Hanauma Bay, you will meet less and less tourists, even if all the South-East part of Oahu is still very popular. On the next kilometers you’ll spot a very impressive blowhole (a hole in the rocks where waves create a powerful geyser) and have a gorgeous lookout over Makapu’u Beach where the stunning colour of the water will once again amaze you.
In this area you can also hike to the Koko Crater summit: a hard walk but a beautiful view from what I saw from friends’ pictures (I didn’t do it myself).
From Makapu’u Point to Kailua
After the Makapu’u lookout, the road will head up North following the coast and some of the most beautiful beaches of Oahu. Surprisingly, the one I found the nicest was also the least crowded one: Waimanalo Beach, the perfect image of a tropical Hawaiian beach with palm trees and white sand.
The next ones (Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach Park) are beautiful as well but apparently easier to reach by public transport which explains that they’re more crowded. Still much better than Waikiki in my opinion…
Once you’ll reach Kailua, drive a few kilometers on the highway in the direction of Honolulu just to stop at the beautiful Nu’uanu Pali lookout and enjoy the terrific view over the East Coast.
The East Coast
Kailua is the end of the most popular part of Oahu. The majority of the tourists are found between here and Honolulu on the Southern part of the island, and the road winding just next to the ocean along the East Coast is so much more enjoyable. I only stopped a couple of times to take a few pictures of the amazing nature on this part of the island, but I’m sure that there’s so much more to see.
Incredible mountains on your left, lovely little beaches on your right, this was one of the most scenic drives I did in Hawaii!
The North Shore of Oahu is a little bit more touristic again, but nothing compared to the South. This is where you can find one of the most magical places in Hawaii: Laniakea Beach.
I highly recommend going there in the late afternoon and staying until sunset. It’s a beautiful beach with small waves ideal for snorkeling (even though it’s not the best spot I’ve been to). If you’re more into surfing, it’s also possible a little bit further offshore; it was great to see surfers catching the best waves with the colours of sunset in the background.
But what makes this beach so special and different to any other in Hawaii is that it’s a place where sea turtles like to rest on the sand. Apparently almost every day you’d be able to see one or a couple of these beautiful animals sleeping there, not taking any care about the humans around them. Surprisingly, there are not so many people watching the turtles. It’s obviously forbidden to go too close or to touch them, but just sitting there and wait for sunset was the perfect way for me to end my beautiful time in Hawaii, before heading back to Honolulu and flying away on the next morning.
This is all I know about Oahu! The disappointment of my first moments there is now completely eclipsed by the amazing things I’ve seen during my last day in Hawaii. I’d love to come back and write another article about all the other treasures left to be found on Oahu… someday!